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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Mathias Kiwanuka: Give new offense a chance

Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka looks on from

Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka looks on from the practice field during the second day of minicamp in East Rutherford, N.J. on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

We take you back to the last time there was this much angst about a newly hired Giants coordinator. It is late in the afternoon of Sept. 15, 2007, and the locker room is nearly silent as the Giants try to understand what has just happened.

They had just suffered another embarrassing loss, falling to the Packers, 35-13, at Giants Stadium. A week earlier, in a Monday night opener, they were beaten by the Cowboys, 45-35.

Mathias Kiwanuka was in that room, trying to understand how this could have gone so horribly wrong so quickly. And why so many Giants fans -- even the most loyal -- seemed ready to give up on the season.

"It was like the sky was falling,'' the Giants defensive end recalled Thursday. "[Fans and media] thought everyone should have been fired. We were no good. We were old and slow.''

Two games into rookie defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's tenure, the Giants had been outscored by a whopping 80-48.

"You [media] guys got on us so bad,'' Kiwanuka said. "It was unbelievable.''

Seven years later, there's a similar vibe around the Giants over a first-year coordinator, and they haven't even played a regular-season game. Ben McAdoo's offense was mostly a mess over the summer, with the first-team offense scoring only three touchdowns in five preseason games.

The doom-and-gloom predictions are pouring in from everywhere -- from Boomer Esiason, Troy Aikman and even Phil Simms, who initially was optimistic about what the new offense could do for Eli Manning. They've all been troubled by what they see, and they all think the struggles will bleed into the regular season, which starts Monday night.

It should be a familiar scenario to Tom Coughlin, whose 11-season run as Giants coach has been framed in large part by the decisions he has made about the coaches who work for him. Many of those decisions have had seismic implications. Consider:

Spagnuolo was hired from the Eagles in 2007 to replace Tim Lewis. The Giants overcame those two brutal early losses, eventually got the hang of Spagnuolo's aggressive scheme and earned the first Super Bowl victory of the Coughlin era.

During the 2006 season, with Manning struggling, Coughlin replaced offensive coordinator John Hufnagel with quarterbacks coach Kevin Gilbride, who turned around Manning's career and wound up winning two Super Bowls.

Coughlin's replacement for Spagnuolo, Bill Sheridan, coached for only one miserable season before being shown the door. Coughlin then hired Perry Fewell in 2010, and the Giants won another championship the following season.

Now it's time to see where McAdoo falls. Is he another Spagnuolo, who needed some time early in his run to get his players to believe in his system? Or is he the next Sheridan, who was reviled by many of his players because of his inflexibility and woeful performances calling games?

Coughlin believes he has the right guy, but the only way he'll know is by what happens on game day.

"Ben McAdoo is a solid, solid football coach that knows what he's talking about,'' Coughlin said. "He has an excellent system, applies himself every day, very smart. We are doing OK there.''

Despite all the hiccups during the preseason, in which Manning had only one touchdown pass, the players genuinely seem to buy into McAdoo's West Coast offense.

"We absolutely believe in it,'' wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "It's a very up-tempo system that can get the ball out of Eli's hands and into the playmakers' hands. I believe in this offense, and I think it's going to pay dividends for us.''

Kiwanuka is buying in, too, even if he and his defensive teammates won't have a direct impact on the offense. All he asks of fans is to remember the lessons of 2007.

"Stay on board until there's a reason to jump off the bandwagon,'' Kiwanuka said. "Obviously, there's a new coordinator and the offense doesn't look the same as last year. But that's not always a bad thing.

"You have to give Eli a little leeway and just stay with us. It'll be fun. Just imagine how much more fun it would have been [in 2007] if people had believed in us from the beginning instead of sitting back being skeptical. You wasted so many days when you could have been excited and had fun.''

Fun? Not quite the word Giants fans would use right about now to describe the offense. But we'll see.

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